Sunday, June 30, 2013

Summer's Bounty: Wild and Cultivated

It is summer and the days are already getting shorter, and yet the garden is just beginning to yield its bounty. I harvested the first sugar snap peas to add to a salad of arugula and white radish from the garden and fresh strawberries from a local farm. Fresh cilantro garnishes many of our meals; Swiss chard and kale, both easy to grow, are staples in many of our summer recipes.
This year the broccoli is bolting rather than forming a nice head. The tomatoes look leggy, the beans are slow, and the peppers could use more sun. The first sunflower bloomed.
So far this year the potato beetles and squash bugs and cucumber beetles are scarce. The potato plants are two feet tall and just beginning to flower. The leaves of summer squash, cucumbers, and winter squash look fresh and pest free. Deer flies and mosquitoes are doing well.

Each year presents a different set of growing conditions. This year has seen a bit too much rain interspersed with a bit too much heat. Some plants and animals like it and some don't.

Japanese beetles seem to favor any condition. They are just starting to emerge, mate, and browse plants in our yard. This marks the start of my early morning ritual to pluck the beetles off plants when they are still sluggish and drop them into soapy water. Each year I hope that moles and skunks consume most of the overwintering grubs, but every year the beetle population is just as big as the year before. I know where to find them though, as they have favorite plants: zinnias, goldenrods, raspberries, and the hazelnut bush. If I miss my morning beetle check and capture, then the population swells by the next morning.

In our yard, red bee balm and purple lavender and pink astilbe are attracting pollinators. Spiders loiter in the potato plants. Chipmunks scamper along the fence, hide in the rock wall, and dig perfectly round holes in the yard. Nesting phoebes perch on the garden fence before sallying out for an insect to feed their young. Tree frogs trill in the evening. Our yard is alive with living things, big and small, and we welcome them all, mostly (Japanese beetles top my list of least useful denizens in our yard).
I tend carefully to the annual plants -- the vegetables, zinnias, basil and other herbs. The perennial flower beds receive less attention each year. I let the wild milkweed grow and a patch of goldenrod is taking hold among the cultivated perennials. The backyard is wilder, which we let grow into cattails and sedges, goldenrods, asters, Joe-pye weed, and other wild things. It seems only natural to let things grow and spread and not fuss too much about what is where.

During drought years the lawn is heavy to crabgrass. This year clover is thriving in the extra moisture. We do little to alter this year to year variation in the lawn's life, except to mow it every week or two. I do like a bit of lawn for ease of walking among the gardens and fruit trees and to the compost piles and garden shed. But too much lawn is unnecessary and a sterile lawn is unhealthy.

After traveling for two weeks in the Midwest, driving past acres and acres of just corn and noting carefully tended weed-free lawns, it seems a marvel to have such a lush landscape surrounding us here in New Hampshire. We cherish the diversity in our yard, some cultivated and some wild. Healthy soils, clean water, clear air, and a wild mix of insect predators, prey, and pollinators yield delicious food, beautiful flowers, juicy peaches, handfuls of blueberries, pungent herbs, and a good life.

1 comment:

  1. Always appreciate your sensitive and sensible take on nature and NH.
    I know you care about Tom Ryan and Atticus; check in and help us all send good will and positivity their way, please, the more support the better.